Put us to

Organizers of the then largest demonstration in U.S. history were under enormous pressure to plan an event that was orderly and free of violence. John F. Kennedy doubted that they could pull it off.

Rachelle HorowitzTransportation director, March on WashingtonMarco Grob for TIME

“A. Philip Randolph, the leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the dean of civil rights leaders, had initially called for a march in 1941. He postponed that march because Franklin Roosevelt gave him partially what he wanted in an Executive Order. Having called off that march, Randolph never stopped dreaming and knowing that he had to have one. Randolph’s contribution to the civil rights movement was a belief in mass action. Bayard [Rustin] added an organizer’s ability, a concept of the strategy of mass action and also of nonviolence. He had a mind that went to every aspect of organization. No aspect of organizing was too small and nothing was too large. He would worry about the kinds of sandwiches that would be there, the nature of the sound system, how one dealt with the President of the United States.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said,
There is not anything
more powerful
than the marching feet of a
determined people.

3,000 Miles to History

In August 1963, a little-known filmmaker named Haskell Wexler traveled by bus from San Francisco to the March on Washington. His documentary of the journey, 1965's The Bus, features footage from the trip and the march. Here, TIME presents an exclusive short edit of the film. In the years since he made The Bus, Wexler has won two Oscars for cinematography (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Bound for Glory) and has shot dozens of other movies, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Doris DerbyVolunteer, Student Nonviolent Coordinating CommitteeMarco Grob for TIME

“Some people pooh-poohed the idea. They didn’t think it was going to work. They thought there was going to be a lot of violence, and so our committee met every week and we said, O.K., what do we need to move this really large group of people from all over, to bring them in? We needed public relations. We needed to have a medical corps of nurses and doctors on hand. We needed to have Porta-Pottys, arrange transportation. Once we had charter buses, regular buses coming in—what’s going to happen to those? Where are people going to park?”

Cover Story

One Dream

To mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, TIME presents a special commemorative issue—featuring Jon Meacham on King as a Founding Father of the 21st century; Richard Norton Smith on how King's words changed the nature of presidential persuasion; Michele Norris on the state of the dream today; plus Maya Angelou, Malala Yousafzai, Jesse Jackson, Colin Powell, Shonda Rhimes, Marco Rubio, Charlayne Hunter-Gault and more on what "I have a dream" means to them. Join TIME.com to read the full issue

Enrique Meneses

We were told by King,
Wherever you are, get involved
in a march
Because that’s the way we are going to
change the culture
of this country.

Robert AveryMarch attendeeMarco Grob for TIME

“We were there a week ahead of time, so they put us to work. Our job was to put together those signs. All of those signs that you see in the film clip—it was our job to staple them and put them together, then take them over to the parade grounds and unload them. I would imagine I probably touched every last one of those signs in some fashion or form. We probably put together, I don’t know, 10,000 or more before we got to the parade ground. And of course, that morning people started coming in and those signs were gone in a few minutes, and we had to get to work again putting more signs together.”